California Governor Signs Bill Banning Facial Recognition Tech Use By State's Law Enforcement Agencies

from the coastal-elite-cops-now-complaining-about-coastal-elites dept

California has become the first state in the US to ban facial recognition tech use by local cops. Matt Cagle has more details on the ACLU-backed law.

Building on San Francisco’s first-of-its-kind ban on government face recognition, California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public. The state-wide law keeps thousands of body cameras used by police officers from being transformed into roving surveillance devices that track our faces, voices, and even the unique way we walk. Importantly, the law ensures that body cameras, which were promised to communities as a tool for officer accountability, cannot be twisted into surveillance systems to be used against communities.

As Cagle points out, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban use of facial recognition by city agencies. Oakland followed closely behind. And all the way on the other side of the country, Somerville, Massachusetts became the second city in the US to enact a facial recognition ban.

This statewide ban will hopefully lead to others around the nation. The tech multiple companies are pushing government agencies to adopt is unproven, at best. The rate of false positives in live deployments is alarming. Just as alarming is the flipside: false negatives that allow the people, who law enforcement agents are actually looking for, to slip away. Despite this, everyone from the DHS to local police departments thinks this is the next wave of acceptable surveillance — one that allows government agencies to, in essence, demand ID from everyone who passes by their cameras.

The resistance to facial recognition’s seemingly-unchecked expansion is finally having some effect. Axon (formerly Taser) has temporarily halted its plans to introduce facial recognition tech into its body cameras and Google is stepping away from its development of this tech for government agencies. Unfortunately, Amazon has shown no desire to step away from the surveillance state precipice and is continuing to sell its own brand of facial recognition to law enforcement agencies as well as co-opting citizens’ doorways into its surveillance network with its Ring doorbell/cameras.

It’s a solid win for residents of the state. The ban blocks the use of facial recognition tech by state law enforcement until the end of 2022. It also blocks the use of other biometric surveillance tech and prevents law enforcement from using existing biometric data to feed any predictive policing tools agencies might be using or planning on implementing. With more states and cities willing to at least undertake serious discussions of the implications of facial recognition tech, it’s unlikely California will remain the odd state out in the biometric surveillance race.

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Comments on “California Governor Signs Bill Banning Facial Recognition Tech Use By State's Law Enforcement Agencies”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Hey, look over there!

"California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public."

"The ban blocks the use of facial recognition tech by state law enforcement until the end of 2022."

This law sounds fairly superficial to me, as it only stops body cams, not all the other cameras, and then only for about 3 years. What happens then?

If the legislature was serious about doing something, then the ban should have been on facial recognition, and not limited to body cams, and there should not have been an end date. But they weren’t serious, were they?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hey, look over there!

Probably more pessimistic than defeatist, but frankly our governments have not given us much in the way of hope with respect to liberty and freedom for the past couple of decades. Those were the marching orders given in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (aka the manual by which our governments should be run), weren’t they?

Dari (profile) says:

If law enforcement is viewed as the organized criminal organization I believe they are, this new law is more dangerous than no new law at all.

Like all laws passed to protect our civil rights from law enforcement, it includes no actual sanction for when (and it will be when) they simply ignore the law without consequence.

When we pass these toothless "police restriction" laws it’s nothing more than grand standing directed at our entirely unaccountable law enforcement agencies. Naive citizens who grew up on COPS, Adam 12 and NCIS incorrectly believe police actually follow the laws the way citizens do and that has never been the case.

What do you think the odds are that cops will follow a law that prosecutors and judges don’t even need to go through the regular qualified immunity free pass to violate the law process they usually fall back on when there are sanctions?

Robert Beckman says:

Re: Re:

This is the problem I see.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with facial recognition, nor even its use by cops.

Imagine, for example, if cops were more likely to identify someone they see as having a warrant for their arrest for (insert horrific crime), and because their Google Cop Glass v7 superimposed the warrant information around the person the cop could see that good arrests then became more common.

Further imagine that one cop sees another beating an innocent man, and the facial recognition ties that cop onto the video automatically, so no more cases of “sure he was beaten, but since he doesn’t know which of us beat him he can’t sue any of us.”

Of course, that’s not likely how it would be implemented, but it illustrates that it’s the implementation that matters, not the technology itself. And part of that implementation is teeth for violating the rules of implementation – so when the cops invariably violate this law, they’ll pay no consequences.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with facial recognition, nor even its use by cops.

At its current state, it is as goof at recognizing faces as cops are at knowing the law, and would becomes a justification for harassing people. The system identified him/her as a criminal would be another get out of jail free card.

Akrion says:

I think this is the wrong decision. Yes, the technology is relatively new. But a lot depends on the developers of this technology themselves. To protect the data of our customers, we use the development of facial recognition systems. Thus, we reduced the time for user authentication and received good reviews.

Adam says:

Face recognition

Face recognition system is already a very popular technology that cannot be prohibited. This is at the system level used in iPhones and Android smartphones. This security technology, for example, is used to confirm payments in online games. Is online gambling legal Yes, because Google and Apple make it possible to download these applications to their markets.

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